WHEELING - About 50 self-proclaimed "water warriors" flowed into Warwood Garden Park Sunday to protest GreenHunter Water's plans to build a natural gas frack water recycling plant on North 28th Street.
"Whether you are opposed to fracking or not, you should take a close look at this. It is just too close to our water plant," said Wheeling resident Deborah Sinclair. "They are saying this plant will be the first of its kind. How do they know it is safe?"
Sinclair referenced comments by John Jack, GreenHunter vice president in the Appalachian region. He said the "facility will be 'first-of-its-kind' in the country once we complete construction" during the company's announcement of the project last month.
Photo by Casey Junkins
Sixth-grade students Gabrielle Marshall, left, and Stormie Snider protest GreenHunter Water’s planned natural gas frack water recycling plant on North 28th Street during a Sunday gathering at Warwood Garden Park.
By September, Houston, Texas-based GreenHunter plans to build the facility, which will recycle water used for hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells, at the former site of Seidler's Oil Service, adjacent to the Wheeling Heritage Trail and a little more than a mile north of Wheeling's water treatment plant. Those on hand Sunday, including Wheeling Water Warriors organizer Erin Bowers, believe the city's water plant is too close to the proposed GreenHunter project.
"There are going to be toxic, radioactive chemicals in that water they are bringing in by truck. What if there is a spill?" Bowers asked.
"If there is any kind of a spill, Wheeling's water supply could be compromised," added resident Patricia Jacobson.
Kate Marshall of Warwood also opposes the plant.
"Anything that is radioactive does not need to be in Warwood," she said.
Some of the elements removed from the earth during the fracking process, such as radium and uranium, have shown radioactive tendencies.
"I don't want to drink radiation," added Peters Run Road resident Mark Eddy.
Jonathan D. Hoopes, president and chief operating officer for GreenHunter, has said the Upper Ohio Valley will benefit from his project because it will reduce the amount of truck traffic on roads that are not designed to handle the large water trucks used by the oil and natural gas industry. He also said residents need to realize the level of Marcellus and Utica shale drilling is going to increase in coming years, which will result in even more wastewater from drilling that will need to be transported somehow.
"What we are trying to do at GreenHunter is to put this water on barges. We are going to bring the product to the facility, recycle it, and take back out to field. If we cannot reuse it, it could end up going out on barge," he added, noting the Coast Guard has not decided whether to allow frack water to be shipped on Ohio River barges. If his company would not receive permission to use the barges, Hoopes said workers would continue to move water by truck.
"This facility is going to save them money, but what about us?" asked Wheeling resident Barb Heyer. "I don't see how anyone with a conscience could put something like this so close to a water plant."
"Anytime you have carcinogens involved, you are going to have problems," said Warwood resident Gregory Gikas. "They are polluting the ground now. And I have been told that barges can leak, so if they put this stuff on barges, who knows what could get into the river?"
Wheeling Councilwoman Gloria Delbrugge, who represents Warwood, continues to oppose the GreenHunter plant's construction.
"They could offer me $1 million, and I still would not change my mind," she vowed. "It scares me to death to think about what might happen."
Delbrugge said the city plans to build a $33 million water plant to replace the current one. She does not want to see the new waterworks polluted by a possible spill from the GreenHunter site.
"I don't think they have applied for any permits yet, so we'll see what happens," Delbrugge said when asked whether GreenHunter had submitted a site plan to the city for review by the city Planning Commission.
Hoopes declined to answer when asked if GreenHunter had submitted a site plan to city officials, but Jack did meet with City Manager Robert Herron earlier this month.